From The Martian to the Bourne franchise, Matt Damon has taken on a number of grueling roles as of late, but the part he considers the “most challenging” is actually from the earliest days of his career.
During a recent Reddit AMA, Damon was asked to reveal the most challenging role he’s ever had, and his answer was surprising. Instead of picking leading parts that won him acclaim like Will Hunting from Good Will Hunting or Private Ryan from Saving Private Ryan, Damon opted for his supporting turn in 1996’s Courage Under Fire. In the film — which starred Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, and Lou Diamond Phillips — Damon portrayed Specialist Ilario, a solider traumatized by the effects of war.
“I think the most challenging role that I’ve ever had, was when I did Courage Under Fire and I had to lose all the weight that I lost on my own, that was the most physically challenging did I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Damon said. “I weigh probably 190 pounds right now, and I weighed 139 in that movie, and that is not a natural weight for me and not a happy weight for me even when I was 25.”
So how exactly did Damon drop all the weight? We’ve read about some pretty intense celebrity workouts to put on muscle — Jake Gyllenhaal’s 2,000 sit-ups, push-ups, and dips regiment while training for Southpaw comes to mind — but in order to shed the pounds, Damon stuck to the tried-and-true combination of running and strict diet.
“So you know to do that I had to run about 13 miles a day which wasn’t even the hard part,” Damon continued. “The hard part was the diet, all I ate was chicken breast. It’s not like I had a chef or anything, I just made it up and did what I thought I had to do. I just made it up and that was incredibly challenging.”
Up next, you can catch Matt Damon in Jason Bourne, which arrives in theaters July 29.